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American Resistance To Empire

Brit Press Claims Taliban Succession Meeting Underway

Afghan Taliban meet on succession as Obama confirms leader’s death

Senior Afghan Taliban figures met on Monday to agree on a successor to Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the leader of the militant movement who U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed had been killed in an American air strike at the weekend.

The Taliban have so far made no official statement on the fate of Mansour, who assumed the leadership only last year.

But senior members have confirmed that their main shura, or leadership council, has been meeting to discuss the succession in a bid to prevent factional splits from fragmenting the movement.

Obama, on a three-day visit to Vietnam, reiterated support for the Western-backed government in Kabul and Afghan security forces, and called on the Taliban to join stalled peace talks.

The president authorized the drone strike that killed Mansour in a remote region just on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan on Saturday.

Pakistani authorities have said the drone strike was a violation of the country’s sovereignty and an official from the foreign ministry told the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad that the attack could “adversely impact” peace talks.

But reaction from Islamabad has otherwise been relatively muted and a number of questions remain over what exactly happened.

An undamaged Pakistani passport in the name of Wali Muhammad, which Pakistani authorities said contained a visa for Iran, was recovered next to the burned-out car at the scene of the attack and is believed to have belonged to Mansour.

But it is unclear what he may have been doing in Iran and why he was apparently travelling in Pakistan without a security detail.

A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry was quoted on state media denying that such an individual had crossed the border from Iran to Pakistan at the time in question.

“MILESTONE”

Calling the death “an important milestone”, Obama said Mansour had rejected peace talks and had “continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and Coalition forces”.

“The Taliban should seize the opportunity to pursue the only real path for ending this long conflict – joining the Afghan government in a reconciliation process that leads to lasting peace and stability,” he said.

However, he stressed that the operation against Mansour did not represent a shift in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan or a return to active engagement in fighting, following the end of the international coalition’s main combat mission in 2014.

The U.S. currently has 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, divided between a NATO-led mission to train and advise local forces and a separate counter terrorism mission fighting militant groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda.

A decision is expected later this year on whether to stick with a timetable that would see the number of troops cut to 5,500 by the start of 2017.

CAN TALIBAN UNITE?

The Taliban, which have previously rejected overtures to join talks with President Ashraf Ghani’s government, have been pushing Afghan security forces hard since the launch of their spring offensive in April.

The attack on Mansour has thrown the movement into disarray at least temporarily, but Afghan authorities have braced for an upsurge in violence as rival candidates position themselves to succeed him.

Although some individual Taliban members have been quoted in media reports saying that Mansour was killed, the group’s leadership, keenly aware of the need to limit splits, has not issued its own confirmation.

“The leadership is being very careful because one wrong step could divide the group into many parties like former mujahideen,” one Taliban official from the eastern province of Nangarhar said, referring to guerrilla leaders who fought the Soviets in the 1980s before splitting into warring factions.

Serious divisions emerged last year when it was confirmed that Mullah Mohammad Omar, the group’s founder, had been dead for two years, leaving his deputy Mansour in effective charge of the movement and open to accusations he deceived his commanders.

One senior member of the shura, which is based in the western Pakistani city of Quetta, said that the choice for the next leader appeared to be shaping around Mansour’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, or a member of the family of Mullah Omar, such as his son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob.

Haqqani, leader of an affiliated network blamed for a series of high-profile suicide attacks in Kabul, had the backing of Pakistan, while Yaqoob had support among members of the Afghan Taliban, the shura member said.

“We prefer someone from Omar’s family to put an end to all internal problems,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Samihullah Paiwand in Gardez, Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Rafiq Shezar in Jalalabad, Drazen Jorgic in Islamabad, Gul Yousafzai in Quetta and Syed Rasa Hassan in Karachi, Babak Dehghanpisheh in Beirut; writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Was Muhammad Wali “Mullah Mansour”?

Muhammad Wali’s NIC had cost him heavy bribe: Sources

dunya news DUNYA

Wali MuhammadMullah-Mansour MULLAH MANSOUR
Law enforcement agencies have started investigation about the matter

QUETTA (Dunya News) – Sources indicate that Muhammad Wali, who died yesterday (Sunday) as the result of an American drone strike on his car while he was travelling from Nushki to Quetta, had his name in the voter list of Chaman. However the locals claim that no one by the exact name resides in the area, reported Dunya News on Monday.

Muhammad Wali s name is present in the final voter list of the Chaman municipal committee next to serial number 38. His full name, Muhammad Wali son of Shah Muhammad, is present in the list along with his identification card number and residential address of Jadeed Abadi, Chaman, district Killa Abdullah. But his residence in Jadeed Abadi has yet not been traced as the locals state that no one by this name resides in the area.

Meanwhile, security agencies have initiated investigation regarding Muhammad Wali s National Identification Card and passport.

Wali s identification card has raised multiple questions over the performance of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). Sources have indicated that the identity card has been made after paying a heavy amount of bribe. Law enforcement agencies have started investigation about the matter.

Swarm of Suicide-Bombers Kill 100+ In Tartous and Jableh—Russian Navy Base Is In Tartous

Monitor says at least five suicide attacks and two car bombs hit Jableh and Tartous, which until now have escaped worst of conflict

Explosions in the Syrian city of Tartous.
Explosions in the Syrian city of Tartous. Photograph: SANA/Reuters

Bomb blasts have killed more than 100 people in the Syrian coastal cities of Jableh and Tartous, monitors said, in a government-controlled area that hosts Russian forces.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in the Mediterranean cities, which have up to now escaped the worst of the conflict, saying it was targeting supporters of President Bashar al-Assad.

Scores were wounded in at least five suicide attacks and two car bombs, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said – the first assaults of their kind in Tartous, where government ally Russia maintains a naval facility, and Jableh.

State media confirmed the attacks but gave a lower death toll.

Fighting has increased in other parts of Syria in recent weeks as world powers struggle to revive a threadbare ceasefire in western Syria and after peace talks in Geneva this year broke down.

State media reported that a car bomb and two suicide bombers attacked a petrol station in Tartous. In Jableh, one of the four blasts hit near a hospital, state media and the Observatory reported.

Syria map

Footage broadcast by the state-run Ikhbariya news channel of what it said were scenes of the blasts in Jableh showed several twisted and incinerated cars and minivans. Pictures circulated by pro-Damascus social media users showed dead bodies in the back of pick-up vans and charred body parts on the ground.

The Syrian Observatory said at least 53 people were killed in Jableh, and 48 in Tartous.

The interior ministry said in a statement more than 20 people had been killed, and one state media outlet put the death toll at 45 people.

Bombings in the capital Damascus and western city Homs earlier this year killed scores and were claimed by Isis, which is fighting against government forces and their allies in some areas, and separately against its jihadi rival al-Qaida and other insurgent groups.

Russia, which intervened in the Syrian war in support of Assad last September, operates an air base at Hmeymim in Latakia and a naval facility at Tartous.

Latakia city, which is north of Jableh and capital of the province that is Assad’s heartland, has been targeted on a number of occasions by bombings and insurgent rocket attacks.

Pak Press Publishes Photos of Vehicle Struck By US Drones In Balochistan

Two charred bodies found in Balochistan near Pak-Afghan border

express tribune

People stand near a vehicle which came under attack by a US drone near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on May 22, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

People stand near a vehicle which came under attack by a US drone near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on May 22, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

QUETTA: Two charred bodies and remains of a car were found late on Saturday night from a remote area near Noshki district of Balochistan, which is close to the border with Afghanistan.

“One of the bodies was identified as Azam (driver) while the other was identified as Muhammad Wali, both Pakistani residents as per the documents recovered from them,” deputy commissioner Chaghi told The Express Tribune on Sunday.

The official further said residents of the area claim they heard the sound of a blast and gunfire late on Saturday night and later found the bodies in a vehicle which was travelling on the Quetta-Taftan highway near Noshki.

Earlier, the United States claimed to have targeted Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour and another militant in a drone strike near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, which reportedly killed them.

Afghanistan’s spy agency said  Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US bombing raid, the first confirmation from regional officials of his death, which marks a potential blow to the resurgent militant movement.

“Mansour was being closely monitored for a while… until he was targeted along with other fighters aboard a vehicle,” Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said in a statement.

American officials on Saturday said Mansour was “likely killed” in the remote Pakistani town of Ahmad Wal in Balochistan province by multiple unmanned aircraft operated by US special forces.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials told AFP the drones struck a Toyota Corolla near the city of Quetta, killing two people whose bodies were burned beyond recognition.

They did not confirm whether Mansour was among them but said the bodies had been moved to a hospital in Quetta.

A member of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s leadership council, told AFP that Mansour had been unreachable on his mobile phone since Saturday night.

“We are not sure if something is really wrong or he purposely switched off his phone fearing an attack,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

In December, Mansour was reportedly wounded and possibly killed in a shootout at the house of another insurgent leader near Quetta. The Taliban eventually released an audio recording, purportedly from Mansour, to dispel the reports.

A US intelligence analyst said Mansour had been in a power struggle with Mullah Mohammad Rasoul, whose deputy, Mullah Dadullah, was killed late last year in what officials think was a fight with Mansour’s more hard-line faction.

US CENTCOM Chief Visits Syria Before Impending Invasion of Raqqa

Senior US commander secretly visits Syria to ‘prepare push to Raqqa’

Russia-Today

 

U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votell. ©  Win McNamee / Getty Images / AFP
General Joseph Votel, head of US Centcom, talked over cooperation with Kurdish and Arab militant groups while on a secretive trip to Syria on Friday. The talks were said to involve coordinating the US-led coalition and rebels plans on recapturing Raqqa from Islamic State.
Read more

© Stringer

The news on the highly secretive visit to Syria broke only after Votel had returned to the US. During his 11-hour stay in the country he met with American advisers at a camp, located some 50 miles from the battleground, as well as with representatives of the Syrian groups who are being trained by the American military experts. Votel also talked to commanders of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

In the aftermath of the visit, Brett McGurk, the US special envoy to the coalition against Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL), tweeted that one of the purposes of the clandestine trip was to prepare an offensive on Raqqa, IS terrorists’ stronghold in Syria since 2013.

Commenting on the current positions of the US-backed forces in Syria, Vogel stated that he “left with increased confidence in their capabilities and our ability to support them,” in an interview, cited by AP.

The existing model of cooperation between US and armed rebels fighting terrorists “is working and working well,” claimed the general.

Speaking about his primary motives behind the sudden visit, Vogel, however, did not specify any details that might explain its timing, while saying that it felt like an “imperative” to him to “see what they’re dealing with – to share the risk they are dealing with.”

AP cited Qarhaman Hasan, deputy commander of the SDF, as saying that the talks focused on the issues of US military support to rebel groups in the form of weaponry and equipment supplies.

“You can’t run an army on smuggling,” he said, adding that the they are “creating an army” and the necessity to smuggle the munitions severely hampers its operational capabilities.

General Vogel became the first military official of such a rank to appear in Syria since the onset of the US military operation against IS in 2014.
Vogel reportedly flew to Syria from Iraq on Friday in daylight. Although the circumstances surrounding the flight are not disclosed due to security concerns, it is believed to be the first time US forces’ representatives flew to Syria not under the cover of night.

Earlier, it is was reported the SDF is preparing to launch a decisive attack on Raqqa in the coming days. The operation is supposedly going to be backed by US-led coalition forces from air.

SDF representative Tackir Kobani said in an interview on Friday that Brett McGurk had visited Syria last week to discuss the “strategy to battle Daesh, in particular, for the liberation of Raqqa, Manbij and Jarabulus.” That makes Votel a second senior American official visiting Syria in the last two weeks.

Read more

© Amer Almohibany  

Army Gen. Joseph Votel was appointed the head of the US Central Command (Centcom) in March. The area of Centcom’s responsibility covers Northeast Africa as well as the Middle East and Central and South Asia.

Reports of an imminent siege of Raqqa come as Moscow has suggested that the US-led coalition joined forces with the Russian Air Force to strike militant groups that did not adhere to ceasefire plan. In particular, Al-Nusra Front terrorists and convoys of arms and militants crossing the Syrian-Turkish border were mentioned.

While the White House has already denied it would even consider a joint Russian-US air campaign, such move would at least partly legitimize the US presence in the country, as the proposal is said to have been agreed with Damascus in advance. The Syrian government has never given permission for any US-led military campaign in the country, making its airstrikes illegal by international law.

Mullah Mansour Reportedly Killed Again—This Time By Drone In Balochistan

[Funny, the way he was killed in near Quetta, Balochistan both times.  The killing of Mullah Mansour would open the door to negotiations with former Guantanamo prisoner, Mullah Rasoul, a.k.a., Mullah Nazir.  

“Pakistan has little control over the Taliban faction led by Mullah Rasoul. The group led by Mullah Rasoul is more interested to join the peace process”–Tolo News, A Look At Taliban’s Different Factions

With this first drone attack in Balochistan, the US seizes the initiative with controlling the Afghan Taliban, eliminating Pak ISI’s horse in this race.]

 

Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour ‘shot dead after argument in Pakistan’   —(Reportedly killed in the firefight in the Kuchlak area of Balochistan)

Kuchlak area of Balochistan, HQ for Mullah Akhtar Mansour Group  —(Mulla Mohammad Alam, Mullah Mansour’s top aid, was reported killed in Kuchlak)

US targeted Taliban emir Mullah Mansour in unprecedented Pakistan drone strike

Long war journal

The US military said it targeted and possibly killed Taliban emir Mullah Mansour today in an “airstrike” in a remote area along the “Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.” Mansour’s status is unknown and the military said it is attempting to determine if he is dead or alive.

“We are still assessing the results of the strike and will provide more information as it becomes available,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in an official statement.

“Mansour has been the leader of the Taliban and actively involved with planning attacks against facilities in Kabul and across Afghanistan, presenting a threat to Afghan civilians and security forces, our personnel, and Coalition partners,” Cook said, offering justification for the strike. “Mansour has been an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict.”

Mansour officially replaced Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban, as the group’s emir in August 2015 when Omar’s death was disclosed. But Mansour has really been at the helm of the Taliban since April 2013, when Omar died and the Taliban kept his death secret for more than two years. Since taking the role of emir, Mansour fought and won a divisive power struggle against senior Taliban leaders who preferred Omar’s eldest son as heir to the group. Mansour led a deadly uprising that saw the resurgent Taliban gain more territory than any time since the US invasion in 2001.

It may take days for the US to receive physical confirmation of Mansour’s death, if at all possible. The Taliban has not issued an official statement announcing Mansour’s death. Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, has been offline most of the week.

While the Pentagon did not state the location of the airstrike which targeted Mansour, Reuters reported that it took place at 6 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (3 p.m. local time) in the town of Ahmad Wal in Baluchistan province.

“Multiple US drones targeted the men as they rode in a vehicle in a remote area in Pakistan along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal,” an unnamed official told the news agency.

US intelligence officials confirmed to The Long War Journal that the strike took place in Mansour’s home Baluchistan province.

A strike in Baluchistan is unprecedented and may signal a shift in US policy which previously confined drone strikes to Pakistan’s tribal agencies. This is the first reported strike by the US in Baluchistan, where the Taliban’s top leadership setup shop in Quetta. All of the other 391 drone and airstrikes reportedly executed by the US took place in Pakistan’s province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Only one other strike took place outside of the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. Of those 390 strikes that occurred in the tribal agencies, 280 took place in North Waziristan and 90 took place in South Waziristan.

Conducting a strike in Baluchistan raises questions whether or not the US sought permission from the Pakistani government to carry out the attack in an area other than North and South Waziristan. Mansour was believed to be operating under the auspices and protection of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

If Mansour is confirmed killed, one likely successor is Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network which is also closely tied to the Taliban. Siraj is one of Mansour’s two deputies and serves as the Taliban’s overall military commander.

If Siraj replaced Mansour, he is even more unlikely than his predecessor to negotiate a peace agreement.The Taliban has insisted that only the return of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the imposition of its harsh brand of sharia – or Islamic law – and the withdrawal of all Western forces is acceptable.

The Taliban released a statement last month sternly denying another senior leader – Mullah Adbul Qayoum Zakir, a former Guantanamo detainee – had called for negotiations with the Afghan government and the West. Although he might represent a coup for the US, Mullah Zakir is an unlikely successor to Mansour. And Zakir, who is also closely tied to al Qaeda, is just as committed to restoring the Taliban to power as Mansour and Siraj.

Two other possible successors include Omar’s eldest son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, and Omar’s brother, Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund. Both were appointed to key Taliban leadership positions last month in the group’s executive council as a way to smooth over any lingering discontent. Omar’s kin opposed the appointment of Mansour and Yaqoub was rumored to have sought the seat to replace his father. It took nearly two months after the change in leadership for Yaqoub to swear allegiance to Mansour in September 2015.

By that point, it was already clear Mansour had navigated through turbulent times. In August 2015, Mansour accepted the oath of allegiance from al Qaeda emir Ayman Zawahiri, as well as pledges from “Jihadi organizations spread throughout the globe.” Mansour’s public acceptance of Zawahiri’s fealty above all others signaled the new face of the Taliban had no intention to break longstanding ties with al Qaeda. The reconciliation with Omar’s family was a final piece to the puzzle. His apparent unification of Taliban ranks did not keep Mansour out of the crosshairs, however. In December, Mansour released an audio statement denying reports of his death, which he said were floated by his enemies to divide his group.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

 

India Tells China To Close-Up Shop In Kashmir

Srinagar , dna

India has formally asked China to stop the construction activities on the other side of Line of Control (LoC) in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

This follows reports of China being involved in construction and upgradation of numerous roads, bridges and hydro power projects in PoK. The Chinese links with Pakistan through PoK have lent credence to the Sino-Islamabad nexus, sparking security concerns for India.

“The government has conveyed its concerns to China…and asked them to cease such activities,” said Colonel SD Goswami, defence spokesman at Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command.

China’s Gezhouba Group Company Ltd has been building a Jhelum-Neelum 970MW hydel power project in PoK since 2007. The project is likely to be complete this year.

China is also constructing an all-weather road, connecting Karakoram Highway with Gilgit-Baltistan, and is also involved in a 46-billion dollar China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC), that will also pass through Karakoram Highway.

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